Simply put, it's when an enforcer of the rules thinks that they are exempt from those rules.
Just as some think they are above the law because they can buy their way out of it, some think they are above the law because they enforce the laws. Through influence, political power, being in office, or sheer force, they believe that the law does not apply to them, or will allow them to do as they please. This is especially done by or in reference to the kinds of things that the laws are intended to protect against corrupt policemen, politicians, gang leaders and the like. They can also said to be "a law unto themselves".
Often expressed by the comment, "I am the (insert governing body here)!" (but saying it is not enough, there has to be some authority the character has). Probably inspired by "L'Etat, c'est moi" (I am the State.) from Louis XIV (although he may not have actually said it).
To count as this trope, it needs to meet these points:
- Bob is charged with enforcing the rules.
- Bob does things not even he is allowed to do, because he now feels he is above the rules.
What this is not:
- Abuse of authority that one actually has.note
- Being granted permission to be above rules most other people must follow.
Screw the Rules, I Have Connections! is when a friend or relative takes advantage of people who follow this trope.
Compare, of course, Screw the Rules, I Have Money!, Appeal to Force, The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard, My Rules Are Not Your Rules, Because I Said So and Loophole Abuse. Railroading, when done in defiance of the rules as written, qualifies too.
Contrast Forgot I Could Change the Rules (someone is empowered to change the rules, but forgets that power at first).
A possible sub-trope of Straw Hypocrite.
- At the beginning of the Sora Unchained arc of Ah! My Goddess, Chihiro assumes full control of the challenge competition over whether or not Sora can refuse her appointment to be Keichii's successor as head of the Nekomi Motor Club under Article 26, Clause 5 of the Motor Club rules, which places said authority in the control of the President Emeritus (Namely, her). When Belldandy points out that Article 26 only has four clauses, Chihiro grabs the rulebook and a pen and adds clause five on the spot. Nobody even tries to call her out on this.
- Combined with Screw the Rules, I Have Money! in Beelzebub. Himekawa and his friends are playing an online game. Their opponents start cheating using magic to give them unbeatable abilities. Himekawa buys the whole gaming company so he can have the code altered to allow his team to become zombies to beat their opponents.
- Death Note: When Light becomes fully aware of Ryuk and the Death Note again after his Memory Gambit, and remembers that he asked Ryuk to put a couple of fake rules on the Death Note (which L must then assume to be real), he goes into a little mental rant about how he is basically a god because he can change the rules like that. It's no longer clear how fully he recognizes that he didn't change the rules.
- Dragon Ball Z: During the Cell Games, Cell pulls this off. During his fight with Goku, he decides the ring is standing in the way of his entertainment and proceeds to blow it up, thus eliminating the risk of a victory by ringout.
- Dragon Ball Super: The Tournament of Power was announced with a strict "no weapon" policy. However, as several contestants started using specific items to defeat the others (such as Master Roshi using containers for the Evil Containment Wave and several universes giving Potaras to their champions), the Zen'Os - who organized the tournament in the first place - allowed these specific instances because they looked cool (shutting down all the complaints with an enthusiastic smile and a Death Glare).
- For sheer political power, none of the other examples on the list surpass Mobile Fighter G Gundam's Prime Minister Wong. How powerful is Wong? Well, thanks to Master Asia's victory in the Gundam Fight four years ago, Wong rules the universe. This allows him to screw the rules however he likes, from turning the Fight into a Deadly Game where attacking the cockpit is allowed to allowing Fighters into the finals who were blatantly defeated and/or disqualified. His counterpart in the manga has a line predating Gilgamesh below:
Wong: To put it lightly, I don't just make the rules, I am the rules!
- Tsunade of Naruto, having founded the medical corps, has a specific set of rules for them that boil down to "heal your friends, don't get in fights that might end in you dying". The only exception to this rule is if the medic has mastered the Byakugo technique. A technique which only she possesses. I must be noted, however, that she is justified: the medical corps are the white mages there, hence the "don't risk your life" clause. The Byakugo technique, however, turns the user into a One-Man Army with a ridiculously strong Healing Factor, so is not that she is ignoring the rules, but more like that, while using that technique, there's no fighting that might result in her dying. Also, she is perfectly willing to teach that technique, and she in fact teaches it to Sakura, it's only that, before her, no other ninja was skilled enough to learn it.
- One Piece overlaps this with Diplomatic Impunity. The World Nobles use their position as descendants of the Twenty Kings who originally founded the (highly corrupt) World Government to do as they please whenever and wherever they go, and anyone who tries to interfere with or touch them in anyway will face the full force of a Marine army. They're even allowed to shoot people in broad daylight without punishment.
- This becomes especially evident when it's revealed that Donquixote Doflamingo, the most psychotic member of the Seven Warlords of the Sea, is a former World Noble. He may have left them, but it still leaves him with enough power to outright deceive the entire world into believing that he had abdicated his position as a Warlord just to trick a mere ten people, something that would've been impossible otherwise. This becomes Fridge Horror when you realize that Doflamingo, a strong and influential pirate outside of his status as a World Noble, technically has dominion over the Admirals.
- And if that isn't enough, during the battle of Marineford, Doflamingo gives a speech about how the ones with the most power get to decide this, and that Marineford was neutral ground due to the fact that everything is Written by the Winners.
- Rosario + Vampire: Kuyo, the head of Yokai Academy's Student Police, regularly exploited his authority to make the other students' lives as miserable as possible, and everyone is too afraid of him to try and stop it. It's only when Tsukune and co. give him a well-deserved ass-kicking that Kuyo finally pays his dues.
- Nero Claudius possesses the ability "Imperial Privilege EX", which basically lets her say "I am the Emperor, so I decide what I am able to do!" It's what allows her to be a good fighter when historically Nero was no such thing (even in the Nasuverse): she decides she should be a good fighter, so she is. Skills she gains this way are only temporary though, and she will quickly forget them when they're not in use.
- Gold Watch from Ouroboros: The ones who can effortlessly crush that tiny life of yours should be the police too, right?
- Maximillion Pegasus is an interesting example. He abuses his position as creator of Duel Monsters to stack his deck cards that have never been released to the public because Pegasus himself felt they were too powerful for general circulation. Given that he constantly calls people like Keith on their own cheating (he even kills Keith for cheating in the manga via Penalty Game), it's pretty hypocritical. He also explicitly cheats by using his Millenium Eye to read the mind of his opponent (the cards in their hand, in particular) and counter their strategies before they can even use them.
- The Paradox Brothers seem to make up the rules of the labyrinth duel as they go, to the point where Joey accuses them of this trope. Even if they are cheating or lying about the rules, the rules they designed for the labyrinth duel are so convoluted that it's nearly impossible to tell if they're lying about things like all flying monsters being banned from the maze.
- Filler Villain Noah Kaiba does the same thing. As the ruler of the Virtual World, Noah is able to enforce all of his Deck Master rules, frequently calling out his henchmen, The Big 5, when they either a) cheat in duels or b) attempt to leave the Virtual World without having first won a duel. Yet during his matches against Kaiba and Yugi/Yami, Noah cheats repeatedly, using Kaiba's brother as a shield against his attacks. When he's actually beaten by Yami, he steals Mokuba's body despite not having won a duel, and tries to escape into the real world, something he himself forbid The Big 5 from doing.
- Though when The Big 5 take over Honda's body, Noah does let them cheat. While there's nothing saying you can't fuse your Deckmaster with another monster, The Big 5 fuse all their own Deckmasters together, despite only being one player.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS, during Speed Duels, players can use a one-per-duel special skill that has varying effects depending on the player (Playmaker, for example, can create an Extra Deck monster out of nowhere when his life points drop below 1000). During Master Duels, however, Skills are forbidden. Queen is able to use her Skill during a Master Duel account of being in charge of the company that designed the network and evidently having written herself in as an exception. She's even called on it, using this trope as a response.
- This is more or less the shtick of the Contest of Champions's Grandmaster, as well as The Maestro who usurps the Grandmaster in the third volume.
- Judge Dredd:
- Defied by Judge Dredd, despite his catchphrase of "I am the law", which would usually be a dead giveaway. He is ruthlessly strict about adhering to the laws of Megacity One, and the conflicts this sometimes cause with his sense of justice have provided some of the series' richest Character Development. In Dredd's case, this catchphrase refers to his absolute authority to punish violations of the law as he sees fit, not to making his own laws. On the contrary, in one storyline where he is authorized to make law on the spot to achieve the government's goals, he's very uncomfortable about it. The idea of the law being consistent and not playing favorites is very important to him, after all.
- Chief Judges have been known to play it straight, particularly Cal (an insane despot), MacGruder (who went senile), Silver (a ruthless authoritarian) and Sinfield (a corrupt careerist). Though even then, there are still some laws even they can't arbitrarily change. The Law of Gravity, for example.
- The Roarke family from Sin City: a Catholic cardinal, a senator, a surgeon general, and a serial killer. They're considered the most powerful family in the city... and possibly the country.
- Both Presidents from Transmetropolitan have said that "If the President does it, it's not a crime" to justify their actions. While The Beast was being somewhat ironic, his successor was apparently dead serious. This was a reference to a certain President Richard Nixon, who famously said something similar.
- Ultimate Spider-Man: Jameson is making a big load of smoke with his cigar. When it goes out, we can see the sign "No smoking please".
- The Triple Goddess is apparently either unwilling or even unable to do this in the Witchcraft graphic novel from Vertigo. Frustrated by how many rules they have to follow when punishing someone who attacked their priestesses and desecrated one of their rituals, one asks who made so many rules. The answer: "I seem to remember it...er...was us, back when everything was new and making rules seemed the thing to be done."
- The Uncanny X-Men gives us the Gamesmaster who oversees the Deadly Game held between the Upstarts. Note that originally he is not this as he was appointed by Selene and answered to her, but after the Upstart Fitzroy become The Starscream to Selene he was left to conduct the game however he chose. Which, invariably, was "however the hell he felt like that day".
- Doctor Doom, the benevolent ruler of the Eastern European country of Latveria, will not let legal technicalities get in the way of his regime. After all, isn't it the duty of a ruler to know when to set aside the rules?
- A specific example comes to mind when, in one story, his subjects demanded that he obey an ancient law and step down as ruler of Latveria in favor of Prince Zorba. Doom's reaction was less than gracious:
Doom: You believe laws written on paper are more powerful than my ultimate weapons? To think I've wasted my energies trying to be fair with you savages! But no more! You've brought your destruction upon yourselves!
- A specific example comes to mind when, in one story, his subjects demanded that he obey an ancient law and step down as ruler of Latveria in favor of Prince Zorba. Doom's reaction was less than gracious:
- In the Death Note AU Those Who Stand for Nothing Fall for Anything when no one comments when Light lights up a cigarette in a hospital room he takes that as "proof that the civilised world has laws for the masses and laws for me."
- In How I Became Yours, Fire Lord Zuko is called before the Fire Nation Senate to discuss his marriage with Katara, the "Princess" of the Water Tribe. His response is to essentially remind them that he established the senate, and then dismiss the meeting.
- In chapter 5 of Savior of Demons, Goku, in trying to understand why Frieza is the way he is, asks him why he couldn't just change the rules - after all, he's so strong, nobody could tell him no, right? Frieza tells him that it would be suicidal, even for him, suggesting that he's not the biggest fish in the galactic pond, at least in terms of influence.
- In What Hath Joined Together, the noble unicorn Orion hoped tried to make Princess Twilight Sparkle invoke this. He went to Twilight Sparkle to ask her to overturn the laws forbidding his marriage to an earth pony, knowing that Twilight has the authority to do while hoping she was progressive enough to allow it. Unfortunately, Twilight's upbringing meant she never questioned "the Order's" necessity and respects Celestia far to much to go around her back, and things get worse from there.
- In the Facing the Future Series, Danny finally (and epically) calls Walker out on this, calling him the biggest hypocrite he's ever met.
- My Bride is a Mermaid: Wedding Bells: In chapters 3 and 4, upon finding out about Nagasumi's association with the Seto Gang, Mawari's immediate reaction is to go straight to Nagasumi and Sun's house and try to arrest them. However, after sitting down with them and talking things out, Mawari decides to let them go since she was technically off-duty at the time anyway.
- Second Wind: Lost's author's note at the end of Chapter 26, in regards to Seal:
Lost: It may be spontaneous and random decision making, but I honestly couldn't resist. This is my story, and I say Seal is coming along for the ride. So take that, common sense! I scoff at your restrictions! *Scoffs*
- Subverted in the omake of the Naruto slash fic Man Of Dreams.
Hashirama: Dude, how bout we do one better and get married?Madara:: Dude, thats not even legal.Hashirama: Dude, I rule this village, I could totally make it legal.Madara: Dude, thatd just be weird. Lets just live in sin, sin is sexier.
- In Restraint, Mai and her family knew about Ozai's Parental Incest towards Azula for years. They wouldn't do anything about it because they couldn't charge the Fire Lord with such an offense.
- Defied in Turning Point, as Egeria prefers to act as a queen rather than a fanatical god like the rest of the Goa'uld, with the result that she feels as though she can't amend her rules to save Daniel's life after he kills a man when he is only a slave, even though Egeria recognises that he only killed that man to save a young woman after giving the other man every chance to stand down. Fortunately, Egeria is able to make the necessary change when some of her people appeal to her to change the rules on Daniel's behalf in accordance with her own rules, allowing her to retroactively revise the law so that a slave can kill a freeman in defence of another freeman.
- In The Prince of Egypt, Ramses tells Moses he can do this for him after Moses accidentally murders an Egyptian slave overseer. Moses doesn't care.
Ramses: I am Egypt. The evening and the morning star. If I say day is night, it will be so.
- Madam Mim in The Sword in the Stone. She makes the rules for the Wizard's Duel just so she can break them. And break them she does.
- Scar in The Lion King flat-out tells Sarabi, "I'm the King! I can do whatever I want!"
- The sultan in Aladdin alters the rules at the end of the movie so his daughter can marry whomever she deems worthy, regardless of nobility.
- Throughout Peter Pan, Captain Hook, in going after Peter, is made to promise "not to lay a finger -- or a hook" on him. During the climactic battle, Hook begs Peter to spare his life, which he does — only for Hook to try to attack Peter with his hook when his back is turned. Luckily, Wendy calls out to Peter to look out and he manages to sidestep the attack just in time, leaving Hook to fall into the jaws of the waiting crocodile in the water below.
- Underworld: Viktor, along with the other vampire elders, drafted a law forbidding vampires from feeding on humans, but Viktor, according to Kraven, "never could follow his own rules" and thus gorged on human blood regularly. Selene's family were among his victims.
- Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome:
Aunty Entity: You think I don't know the law? Wasn't it me who wrote it?"
- Councillor Dupont from Equilibrium, the former leader "Father" died and Dupont has been pretending to be him ever since and just started making up any old laws he pleased. He's also a "sense offender", breaking one of the major laws their society was built upon, one he enforces as severely as possible putting people to death without trial while ignoring it himself. Commentaries from the movie's makers says they see belief in exemption from their own oppressive rules is a mark of a despot.
- As Denzel Washington's character Alonzo Harris in Training Day put it, "I am the police! King Kong ain't got shit on me!"
- General Deveraux in The Siege plays it straight, bellowing "I AM the law! Right here, right now, I am the law!" at Denzel Washington when he tries to arrest him for murder, which was not covered under the martial law he had been tasked with. It's worth pointing out the Willis' General had actually protested against being given authority under martial law as being a bad idea in the first place, although it appears his perception and self-assessment disappeared once he was given it. Alternatively, it could be seen as Briar Patching, that he was against it simply so that he would be in charge of it once it was approved anyway.
- The entire point of Lakeview Terrace is that the deranged neighbor that cruelly harasses the protagonists is a cop, and the other cops are more likely to back him up in a "my word against his" situation.
- Famously uttered by Palpatine in Revenge of the Sith. Mace Windu confronts Chancellor Palpatine in his office in order to arrest him for being a Sith Lord and tells him that the Senate will decide his fate, to which Palpatine replies, "I AM THE SENATE.", in a low and intimidating voice. Palpatine, now revealed as Darth Sidious, kills three of the Jedi's best swordsmen (under Yoda, Anakin, Windu and Obi-Wan of course, but still celebrated swordsmen) in mere seconds and is climactically "defeated" by Windu in time for Anakin to arrive and "save" him. Darth Vader is born and Palpatine's plan to kill the Jedi is validated by the Senate under the pretense that the Jedi tried to assassinate him.
Darth Sidious: I will make it legal.
- This is also literally true of Palpatine. Because the Senate granted him emergency powers, his boast is one he is quite within his legal rights to carry out.
- Given the name of the movie, it should come as no surprise that Steven Seagal's debut film, Above the Law, is about government officials with this exact mindset. The beginning shows the past of Seagal's character (which looks very similar to Seagal's own past at some points...), which culminates in a scene in Vietnam where high-ranking officials torture a POW far more than the Geneva Convention could possibly allow. The movie then shifts to the main plot, a tale about top dogs in the CIA smuggling drugs and plotting to assassinate a Senator just to make sure their operations in Central America go just as planned.
- The main character in The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. You'd be amazed at what one dope fiend can get away with just by flashing a badge.
- Frost/Nixon recreates the interviews that produced the page quote
When the President does it, it's not illegal.
- In the movie Conspiracy (2001), a group of Nazi bureaucrats debate the planning for the Holocaust. The wholesale extermination keeps interfering with the established racial laws as defended by Dr. Stuckart (mostly because he wrote them himself). His opponent Dr. Klopfer eventually retorts that they'll just change them — since most of the men present are trained lawyers, they can create basically any law they like so long as it confers with Hitler's directives.
- A heartwarming use in A Knight's Tale. When William is revealed as a common yeoman impersonating a knight, he's put in the stocks. Then Prince Edward, to whom William twice showed kindness during a joust, turns up and knights him, declaring:
"He may appear to be of humble origins, but my personal historians have discovered that he is descended from an ancient royal line. This is my word, and as such it is beyond contestation."
- Then again, he's likely saying the truth anyway—anyone is related to a royal line if you look far enough in the past.
- In The Purge, where a group known as the New Founding Fathers have taken over America and made crime legal for 12 hours out of the year, they also passed laws that exclude them from being targeted by the annual anarchy they've created.
- The Hunger Games: The Gamemasters announce that two people can live if they're from the same district, then revoke it at the end when two actually manage to fill that condition. Katniss showed them up by threatening suicide with Peeta, forcing them to make good on the original promise so they'd have someone to crown a victor instead of a martyr.
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: As Professor Dumbledore and Harry get ready to Disapparate out to an oceanside cave for a locket which is meant to be one of Voldemort's Horcruxes, there's this exchange between student and teacher:
Harry: Sir - I thought we weren't allowed to apparate within Hogwarts.
Dumbledore: Well, being me...has its privileges.
- Slightly subverted in that it's not a rule per se, it's a protective ward (which Dumbledore, presumably, has the authority to turn off/go through).
- Timbuktu: One particularly gross jihadist ask a girl's mother if he can marry the girl. When the mother says no, he says he'll come back "in a bad way", and he later takes the girl by force. When the imam goes to the jihadists and explains how this is a violation of customtaking the girl without her consent or her mother's consent, without even bothering to ask her male guardianthe jihadists give a long winded explanation that basically boils down to 1) they're in charge, 2) the man is "pious" and so deserves a wife, and 3) they decide what's holy and lawful, so tough luck.
- Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion: The chief of homicide kills his girlfriend just to see if being a high-ranking policeman means he can get away with murder. He can.
- Implied in a joke involving a particularly unpopular village head: One day, while he was walking around the village at night, a young man bumped into him, and claimed that he couldn't see him because it was too dark. The next day the head passed a rule saying everyone walking on the streets at night must carry a lantern. That night, the same man bumped into him again, and showed the lantern to the annoyed village head and pointed out that there is no rule that the lantern should have a candle. The village head made an Obvious Rule Patch the next day, saying that the lantern must also have a candle. That night, the man bumped into him again, and this time the loophole was that the rule doesn't say the candle has to be lit. The embarrassed head cancelled the rule on the following day. At no point in the joke does the village head consider carrying a candle himself.
- David Weber:
- Many villains in the Honor Harrington series have this attitude. In particular the People's Republic of Haven's Legislaturalists, their successor the Committee of Public Safety, the Star Kingdom of Manticore's High Ridge Government, and the Solarian League's "Five Mandarins". All these groups consistently make the same blunder in overestimating just how much the people they rule over are willing to put up with and continuously trying to game their respective systems when it's abundantly clear they're making terrible mistakes.
- A more benign version occurs in the fifth book, How Firm a Foundation. Empress Sharleyan has arrived in Corisande to pronounce sentencing on the traitors of the Northern Conspiracy. However, while the law is clear on their guilt and their punishment, Sharleyan uses her royal prerogative to pardon those who were blackmailed, threatened, duped, or just too angry or foolish to realize what they were getting into.
- The Group of Four are the more traditional example. Zhaspahr Clyntahn in particular is perfectly willing to write dispensations for the very technological advances he condemns for the specific purpose of making sure those advances can be used by the Church to crush the heretics.
- In Animal Farm, the dictator pig Napoleon rewrites the original constitution of Animal Farm multiple times to make his actions legal (since most animals are dumber than pigs, they didn't realise the secret rewritings). Eventually all the laws on equality and freedoms are reduced to one, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
- In Brave New World World Controller Mustopha Mond, responding to Bernard's shock that he owns banned books, explains that "As I make the rules, I can also break them. With impunity, Mr. Marx, which I'm afraid you cannot do."
- In A Brother's Price the protagonist's sister, Corelle, is left in charge of the family farm while the mothers and elder sisters are away. She chooses to do the one thing she was not allowed to do: leave the farm unguarded while she visits the pretty son of their neighbours. When the actual authorities return, they are not amused.
- The Chronicles of Narnia: Subverted in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Lucy casts a spell "to make hidden things visible" which immediately reveals Aslan. When she expresses surprise that Aslan could be affected by a simple spell, he replies "do you think I wouldn't follow my own rules?"
- Subverted in L.E. Modesitt Jr.'s The Corean Chronicles. When Mykel's wastrel brother Venicet shows up in Tempre and expects to be given a cushy court position just because he's the brother of the newly declared Lord Protector, Mykel flat out tells him that he couldn't provide his brother with a steady income unless he was willing to take a steady job, as this was the rule he had laid down for everyone else, and as ruler he couldn't decree one thing and do something else. Then he gave his brother what pocket change he had on him and showed him the door.
- In the Deryni works, Edmund Loris was Archbishop of Valoret and Primate of All Gwynedd, but in the aftermath of the schism in High Deryni, he was stripped of his office and imprisoned in a monastery. On his escape, he simply takes up where he left off, calling himself Primate when he first confronts Istelyn and takes him prisoner in The Bishop's Heir. So far as he's concerned, Cardiel, Arilan, Istelyn and the rest are the traitors to the Church, and he Loris is the only one who can bestow that label. (Naturally, Istelyn doesn't agree; in a subsequent argument after Dhugal's escape with Sidana and Llewell's capture by Kelson's forces, Istelyn reminds Loris that the bishops deprived him of his office and its authority.) When the new Primate Archbishop Bradene sends a writ of excommunication against Loris, Judhael, Caitrin, and their followers, Loris claims it has no force. In response to this, Loris strips Istelyn of his office as priest and excommunicates him (on the basis of his old authority) expressly so Istelyn can be executed (hanged, drawn and quartered) as a traitor.
- Lord Vetinari, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork in the Discworld novels, can say this, although he prefers not to. Anyway, he has established legal precedent going thousands of years on his side, namely "Ego sic dico."
Vetinari: The law must be obeyed, Miss Dearheart. Even tyrants have to obey the law. [Beat] No, I tell a lie, tyrants do not have to obey the law, obviously, but they do have to observe the niceties. At least, I do.
- Subverted (most of the time) by Sam Vimes, because he knows where breaking the rules it would sometimes be convenient to break would lead. He's seen people go there. He's not going.
- Sam Vimes' ancestors served as a means to ensure that the rulers of Ankh Morpork would not do this for too long. Vetinari knows about this, though whether he fears Vimes is doubtful. He does acknowledge Vimes as a force to reckon with, though, and prefers to work with him, not against him.
- In A Fox's Tale, Lord Drake demands that all people with "talents" (e.g. manipulating elements or shapeshifting) be registered, apparently so he can make an army out of them. Conveniently enough, Lord Drake doesn't register himself despite being a spiritkin, a talent and an arcane mage. Lampshaded by Jona, when, after Ember mentions this information, he asks, "Of course not, who makes laws and then follows them himself?"
- Harry Potter
- Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. When a student calls her out for violating her own arbitrary rules, she simply gives the student detention - which in her case involves Cold-Blooded Torture.
- And similarly, Minister Fudge with his "Laws can be changed!" when he clearly is circumventing the legal lawmaking process. Which was actually hilarious, because the invoked law was necessary self-defense. So Fudge meant that he could change the law so that when you're attacked in Muggle territory, it would be illegal to defend yourself!
- The Ministry of Magic misrepresent their powers multiple times by threatening Harry with punishment they have no authority to carry out. First in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when a house-elf casts a spell in the Dursley residence in the presence of muggles, they send Harry a letter informing him that he has broken the law and that further infringement may lead to expulsion from Hogwarts (in reality the Ministry doesn't have the legal authority to suspend Hogwarts students). In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, after Harry has used magic to defend the lives of himself and his cousin, the Ministry sends hims a letter stating that he has in fact been suspended from Hogwarts and that a ministry official would arrive soon to destroy his wand (which they don't have the authority to do either, at least not without a trial). They might have carried out their threat if Dumbledore hadn't been on the ball. However, even after Dumbledore had reminded the Minister of Magic of the law, the Ministry still maintained in their follow-up letter to Harry that he should "consider himself suspended from school pending further enquiries."
- Arthur Weasley could also be this as he enchanted a car after creating a loophole in a law he made himself to be able to do so legally.
- In The Hunger Games, the Gamemasters bring up the possibility of two victors in the normal There Can Be Only One challenge, only to revoke it when that possibility actually becomes reality. They didn't count on the survivors trying to commit suicide to spite them, so they flip-flopped again to prevent the two from becoming martyrs.
- A twist in The Warlock in Spite of Himself by Christopher Stasheff: Queen Katherine insists that the law says captured rebels must be executed, and therefore she cannot pardon them. It's her wiser advisors, realizing that the circumstances of the rebellion mean mercy would be the better ploy, who tell her, "The law of the land is the Queen" — setting a very bad precedent, but executing these rebels would cause major and possibly worse problems.
- Airwolf has this with Archangel giving a subordinate a lesson in Firm rules.
Archangel: You tried to kill me!
Subordinate: I was Just Following The Rules. "If an agent becomes a threat to the Firm or the country, they are to be killed."
Archangel: Don't you DARE quote the rules to me! I WROTE THEM! You can bet there's going to be an amendment that clearly states that that rule DOES NOT APPLY TO ME!
- Averted in the Babylon 5 episode "Atonement", when Delenn goes to her clan council to hear the verdict on her marriage even though she is the most powerful woman in Minbar. On the other hand she seemed to be willing to make Minbari policy practically by herself earlier. Perhaps the discrepancy can be Justified by saying the one was an unusual security crisis and the other was just a personal matter. Also these were her kin after all.
- Knowing Delenn, she would have found some way of getting past an unfavorable decision no matter what. Fortunately, there was a convenient way of justifying her engagement to Sheridan.
- In Blackadder II, this was Queenie's preferred method of winning arguments with her subordinates - simply retort "Who's Queen?" to convince them to agree with her.
Melchett: (resigned) As you say, Majesty, there were these magnificent orange elephants which were coming...
- A benevolent example shows up in Buffy the Vampire Slayer when Deepscan is approached on conducting industrial espionage on a Internet firm run by Wolfram & Hart. Kennedy points out they cannot become involved, however since she runs Deepscan goes Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right! and does so anyway.
- Played for laughs in Deus Salve O Rei when Prince Rodolfo makes an anti-adultery law in an attempt at making himself relevant, specifically seeking to punish the cheater's lovers. He then revokes the law the moment it looks like he might be punished himself, since he is a womanizer that sleeps with any beautiful woman that catches his fancy.
- Doctor Who:
- In "The Awakening", villainous local squire Sir George Hutchinson has it pointed out to him that he is detaining people illegally. His response? "As the local magistrate, I will find myself quite innocent."
- At the end of "The Waters of Mars", the Doctor (who up until this point has refused to save some humans whose deaths are part of history) breaks down and realizes that since he is last of the Time Lords, this trope applies to him: "Do you know who that leaves? ME!! It's taken me all these years to realize it, but all those laws of time are mine. And they will obey ME!!! ". It...doesn't end very well Time is more resilient than he realizes, and the woman he rescues commits suicide moments thereafter, preserving the integrity of history and sending the Doctor into a Heroic BSoD over his arrogance. It's actually rather interesting to realize that in fact, he is virtually repeating, verbatim, what a certain friend of his has been saying for quite a while now....
- Next episodes we learn that the entire race of Time Lords had reached a similar conclusion, and that's why the Doctor had to wipe them out in the first place.
- The Handmaid's Tale: Gilead is based upon an extremely harsh form of Christianity and everyone is expected to remain pure and virtuous, but several of the Commanders blatantly flout the rules by indulging in banned pastimes, having illicit relations with their Handmaids and attending an elaborate, if tacky, brothel.
- And then averted when Putnam is brought to trial for his relationship with Janine that caused her to go off the deep end. Turns out Putnam's own wife recommended that he get the harshest punishment possible; Fred's face when he realises that even Commanders aren't safe from Gilead's regime is a sight to see.
- Horrible Histories:
- The English Civil War song:
King Charles I: I am the king, I can do what I like!
Start up a war, or a big tax hike!
Got a French wife, she's a Catholic...
Roundheads: Oh Lord!
Really, King Charles, we're not quite sure...
Charles: Insolence! Is that how you talk to the crown?
I am the king, I'll just close parliament down!
Roundhead: I think you'll find that's in breach of due process.
Cavalier: Here's what we say to that: Pffft! Now, clear out this mess!
- Also, Nero in the Olympics song:
Crashed my racing chariot, but still awarded gold
Hey, my Olympics, my rules! To argue would be bold!
I won every medal that was op for grabs
The crowd loved it! Well, they had to, or I would have had them stabbed!
- The English Civil War song:
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit's characters do this sometimes. Elliot Stabler does this almost constantly. He regularly uses questionable or outright illegal interrogation techniques (Like threatening to break a suspect's neck,) uses his badge to try getting his daughter Kathleen out of trouble (At one point saying that her breaking into someone's house is a "harmless prank,") and generally fails to actually follow 90% of the rules that police officers are supposed to be following.
- If it wasn't for his 97% closer rate, it is pretty clear he would have had the Turn in Your Badge speech a long time ago.
- Leverage: "The Bank Shot Job" in the first season centers around a corrupt small town judge who totally believes this trope will save him. The opposite happens.
- Gene Hunt's last line in Life on Mars.
Sam: I should do you in for speeding! You're not above the law, you know!
Gene: What are you talking about, Tyler? I am the law!
- King Uther in "The Crystal Cave". He has magic banned, yet orders Gaius to use it to save Morgana.
- The reason why and how King Arthur marries Guinevere. The fact that she's a servant girl in this version is only brought up a couple times, and poses virtually no obstacle for Arthur. He wants to marry this woman, so he does. No arguments.
- When his father was king, in contrast, Arthur and Gwen had to keep their relationship secret.
- The pilot of New Amsterdam (2018) has new medical director Max Goodwin telling the assembled hospital staff that they need to change things majorly. He then backs it up by firing the entire cardiac surgeon staff (he hires one back) and saying that "anyone who puts billing over patient care is terminated, no matter how much money they bring in." He then tells other surgeons they'll be getting actual attendings and not just college med students with no training. He ignores the number of doctors leaving (some calling their lawyers) as he continues to declare that they are no longer going to use the excuse of "the system is too big to change because we are the system." Over the course of the series, Goodwin shows he's all too willing to reshape the status quo of the hospital over the objections of the board.
- Our Miss Brooks: Mr. Conklin lives this trope. One example, out of many, is his using the high school cafeteria freezer to store his meat in "Home Cooked Meal".
- Parks and Recreation: In Season 5, Leslie gets Ron to host the annual BBQ that the parks department puts on. Ron shows up with no food and a live pig, stating that he is going to kill and cook the pig. When a Park Ranger comes up and asks him what is up, Ron presents the Park Ranger with a paper, saying that it is a permit, However, the permit only says "I can do what I want -Ron" as Ron is the head of the Parks Department and the Park Ranger's boss. However, it is subverted as the Park Ranger points out that while he is the head of the Parks Department, "Its not a parks thing. Its against like three laws and a dozen health codes."
- Scotty gets a great one in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Relics". He and Geordi are attempting to repair a beat up old rustbucket of a ship and tells Geordi to shunt some fuel to an auxiliary tank. Geordi protests that the system specs say doing so will blow everything up. Scotty, being the author of said specs, admits that "a good engineer is always a wee bit conservative, at least on paper" and that the procedure will work.
- In Star Trek: The Original Series episode, "The Doomsday Machine", Kirk pretty much pulls this trope, telling Spock to retake command of the Enterprise under his "personal authority as captain" before Commodore Decker ends up destroying the ship and killing his crew in his maddened Roaring Rampage of Revenge against an ancient machine destroying planets.
- That Mitchell and Webb Look: A man who runs a business starts shooting his employees dead for poor grammar, and when confronted about it claims he's allowed since it's his company. The employee questioning this points out he could have just corrected them, something the man genuinely hadn't thought about.
- Wizards of Waverly Place: Professor Crumbs gives full Wizard status to both Justin and Alex, despite the fact that there's a rule saying that only one wizard per family can be a full wizard. This is so Justin can take over his position as headmaster of Wiz Tech. The only reason he could possibly be allowed to disregard the rules in this manner is because he is the head of the governing body that created them.
- I'M VINCE MCMAHON, DAMNIT!
- The heel General Managers aren't much better...and usually once they screw the rules too much, they're in line for a firing or a major beatdown from the face wrestler they've likely been feuding with for the past few months.
- There have been matches where the Heel was allowed to alter the stipulations of the match, during the match, as many times as they want.
- A running theme in pro wrestling is the claim that no one, not even the owner, can override a referee's decision. This is countered by the fact that the owner or GM can change the rules of the match, even retroactively. So the referee's ruling of a disqualification, for example, isn't overridden, it's just that it no longer matters because it just retroactively became a no disqualification match.
- It should be noted that while Mick Foley was Commissioner in 2000, he would overrule the referee's decision in two different pay per view main events without actually changing the rules, both times causing Chris Benoit to lose out on winning the heavyweight title, once because Foley never saw The Rock actually cause a disqualification (the referee was groggy and thought Rock had hit him with a chair and the title was allowed to change hands on a disqualification) and the other time because The Undertaker had his foot on the rope and the groggy referee didn't notice it. Shane McMahon, who was managing Benoit at the time, would point out the running theme that authority figures weren't allowed to override a referee's decision, but the outcome remained the same anyway.
- A Worked Shoot variant came during the 2005 Royal Rumble, in which Wrestling/Batista and John Cena both fell over the top rope at the end of the match, landing at the same time. Because of the recent brand split, the RAW referees sided with Batista while Smackdown refs declared Cena the winner, which kept the theme of the night going while those in the back frantically worked at a solution.
- A particularly egregious example would be the match between Chris Jericho and William Regal at Backlash 2001. Because Regal challenged Jericho to a "Duchess Of Queensbury Rules" match, and Jericho accepted without knowing what that was, it turned out that Regal was allowed to change the rules whenever he was about to lose. Possibly the worst pro wrestling example of Calvinball ever.
- In the WWE, when Paul Heyman was a general manager, his first act was to put one of the faces into a match. Then no less than 4 times during the match, he'd grab a microphone and say "I'm sorry, I forgot because it's my first day. This match is actually..." and he'd add another stipulation to the match.
- As of 2013, we have Triple H, the leader of the Authority.
- The World Famous Kana quickly pushed the bounds of her authority after REINA hired her as a consultant, first getting the tag team titles stripped from Makoto and Ariya, then paying Syuri to betray Lin Byron so Kana and her beloved Arisa Nakajima could be Tag Team champions. Then she took Syuri's REINA World Woman's Title and proclaimed herself REINA's new General Producer, promising to "reform" the fed.
- One of the major themes of the Problem of Evil (used in "God Is Evil" plots) asks whether God is allowed to do something that goes against his own code of morality. If he is, can he still be considered omnibenevolent? And it he can't, can he still be considered omnipotent? Usually the response is either 1. Yes, God has every capability to do actions against his morality, but he has no reason to. His power is such that he can solve any problem with benevolence, whether or not evil can do with malice (Saying that only benevolent means are used contradicts the In Mysterious Ways idea; Also, focusing on the Moral side of the argument: in some monotheistic religions, the god in question forbids a set of deeds, like murder, but is claimed to perform actions contradicting those teachings because they can, without being called out on it). 2. Morality is defined by the dictates of God, so the question is meaningless (The god in question IS the personification of morality with all his actions). Plato would have a problem with this line of reasoning, but then again, he never thought his gods were omnibenevolent or omnipotent to begin with, (However, Plato's idea of "The ultimate good" wasn't exactly about the Hellenic gods) or 3. Go away kid, ya bother me.
- Invoked without all that bothersome morality by the classic philosophical question, "Can God create a boulder so large that He Himself cannot lift it?" It's a logical problem of omnipotence; if he can't create a boulder too large to lift, he's not all-powerful, and if he can, then he's still not all-powerful. This is sometimes accused of Begging the Question, since it takes God being constrained by logic (which an all-powerful being would not be by definition) as an assumption.
- This is also a common explanation for the performance of miracles in monotheistic religions. As God created the laws of nature, he can suspend or violate them at will to do things that would normally be impossible.
- The Solar Exalted of the Exalted setting were the rulers of the world in the First Age. As the Great Curse laid upon them by their vanquished foes, the Primordials (titans) started to corrupt them more and more, their rule became more and more tyrannical and cruel. Note that within his domain, a Solar had the right to set almost anything that doesn't threaten the rule of Solars in general as a law, which resulted in some pretty horrible places to live, as well as some pretty... bizarre laws and customs (a whole region in the North where people acted like they lived in a musical!).
- The player characters have this role in Dogs in the Vineyard — as they are commanded to represent the word of the Book of Life, they basically interpret what it means and enforce it as they see fit. Often with guns.
- Paranoia makes a particular effort to encourage this attitude. Game Masters are encouraged (if the need arises) to roll the dice in plain view of all the players and deliberately ignore the results just to hammer the point home.
- Happens a lot in universe too. Ultraviolet clearance clones are assumed to not only be above suspicion by the Computer, but also be the people who program the Computer and tell it what to think. (They've installed automatic safeguards against blatant "all the other Ultraviolets are traitors" programs, but that's about it.)
- Similar to the above, a quote attributed to Gary Gygax goes something like "DMs roll dice because they like the sound it makes."
- Referred to as Rule Zero in most P&P RPGs: The DM makes the rules.
- Although most RPGs encourage the DM to be consistent about the rules.
- The Golden Rule of Magic: The Gathering is "Sometimes a card contradicts the rules; if this occurs, the card text takes precedence."
- Warhammer 40,000:
- Inquisitors are supposed to uphold the Imperial credo, hunt down daemons and aliens, and eliminate heretics. Does this stop many of them from happily and repeatedly violating said Imperial credo, summoning daemons and using alien technology, and turning to Chaos to further their own agenda? No. No it does not. Fortunately, Inquisitors who go rogue get the Inquisition on their tails pretty fast.
- All bodies of the Imperium are obligated to incarcerate psykers and either execute or dragoon them into service. No one touches the Emperor who is far and away the most powerful psyker ever despite being dead and immobile, the various institutions have come up with reasons why including the Ecclesiarchy stating because of his divine nature the Emperor is exempt from laws against psykers. They don't even bother lying about it and try to pass it off as holy power rather than psy.
- Warhammer: Malekith, the Witch King of Naggaroth, frequently makes laws, customs and rules for his Dark Elf subjects that he flaunts himself (such as his ban on male sorcerers, and for a long time his proclamation that nobody else be allowed to ride in a chariot). His mother Morathi has a similarly dismissive approach to following her own rules (as with her treatment of the Cults of Pleasure, which she outlawed, despite being a High Priestess of herself). To all the other Dark Elves their behaviour is a clear case of this trope, though Malekith and Morathi think it's a justified perk of being in charge. Whether Malekith and Morathi really do have the constitutional authority to behave in this fashion is a vexed question, given that "constitutional authority" to Dark Elves means "power to exercise one's tyrannical wishes when one wants".
- Creon makes this argument to Haemon in Sophocles' Antigone. Naturally it all ends in tears, what with him forgetting that the Gods are more important than kings.
- This is Nero's response to Seneca when the latter attempts to dissuade him from divorcing his wife Ottavia and marrying his mistress, in Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppaea.
- The broken Jug (Der zerbrochne Krug) by Heinrich von Kleist: Judge Adam clearly thinks he can ignore the rules of procedure. This doesn't work so well when a superior is present to supervise him.
- Privately-run servers in video games are very prone to this trope.
- Even some of the retail servers allow game-masters and moderators to screw the rules of the game...whether this counts is a bit more debatable, as they're usually not used to win anything, just to moderate.
- A part of MUDs, where the people making the rules would often screw them.
- Servers of games where you are kicked from hacking by moderators and administrators who are hacking themselves.
- Officer Tenpenny in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Pulaski even more so.
- Ace Attorney:
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations, Godot frequently dictates the rules as he sees fit ("It's one of my rules"), even though he's technically a rookie prosecutor and this is his first case. The Judge goes along with it, due to Refuge in Audacity.
- A running theme in Ace Attorney Investigations. The Phantom Thief Yatagarasu deliberately goes after people who put themselves above the law through money or political power. This is usually businesses, but it extends quite easily to Cohdopian ambassadors.
- Blaise Debeste of Investigations 2, flexes his clout as the Chairman of the Prosecutorial Investigation Committee while mocking Edgeworth's dedication to finding the truth. For someone in his position, "the truth" is whatever he wants it to be, and nobody else can do a damn thing about it.
- Redd White in the original game is said to be in such a position and he does attempt to flex his influence to ensure he gets his way in court but it fails miserably (can't use your influence to stop someone from using solid evidence to show you're a heartless liar).
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Spirit of Justice, the final prosecutor faced is the queen of Khura'in, Ga'ran. Every time you start winning, she rewrites the law right in front of you to set you back again. To defeat her, you have to prove that she has no claim to the throne, thus invalidating all the laws she made.
- In Oblivion: The Shivering Isles, at one point a guard will tell you that "Only Lord Sheogorath is above the law here." Of course, when you become Sheogorath, they'll still fine you/send you to a dungeon. Typical.
- There's also Auden Avidius, a Imperial Watch Captain that is using his position to extort money from a few people, and if you call him out on it he'll put a 1000 gold bounty on your head. Getting Avidius arrested is one of the quests in the game, though this will lead to him breaking out of jail and attacking you.
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the first sign that the rule of Imperial Law is starting to crumble in the outer provinces is that General Tullius and officers under his command will execute everyone they round up, without due process and without fear of reprisal.
- Benevolent example in Breath of Fire II - a Wyndian with black wings is prophesied to bring about the ruin of their civilization, so all children born with black wings are put to death. When the king's daughter was born so, he vetoed this, imprisoning the one person who knew the secret and sending the child to be raised in a faraway town. Nina has strong black magic, but remains completely benign and a whole-hearted party member throughout the game.
- Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater has Colonel Volgin. When Ocelot expresses his disgust at his methods after he killed Granin during a torture session, Volgin explicitly says that he's in command and doesn't need Ocelot's approval.
- As far as chain of command goes a Colonel does have command authority over a Major so he was the one calling the shots over that operation. His argument does kind of fall apart when you consider that he is a villain who just got through killing a brilliant scientist who created Metal Gear, the titular mecha of the series, when he had no solid evidence that he was a spy and tortured him to death on a whim. Not to mention wanting to start a war with the United States and toppling the current Russian Government, he may have been the one making the rules but those rules were still corrupt.
- There's also the small fact of Volgin being an absolute psychopath, and that questioning his orders would be a good way to end up dead.
- A rare positive example, courtesy of Modern Warfare 3, when the head of the SAS Captain MacMillan goes outside of the law to help Captain Price and Soap, because no one will can tell him that he can't, because he's head of the SAS.
- A more typical example comes from the next game, Call of Duty: Black Ops II. During Menendez' playable segment in the mission "Odysseus", you're given the option to shoot Admiral Briggs. If you shoot him in the head, Salazar reprimands you, saying "you said no unnecessary killing!" Menendez responds to this by claiming "I decide what is necessary!"
- A heroic example in Mass Effect with Urdnot Wrex. The reforms that he's making for the krogan are not the most popular and he's not running much of a democracy. However, he is willing to listen to his advisors and the traditions that the other krogan are sticking to are so self-destructive that it is genuinely putting them on the path of extinction, and Wrex is determined to drag his fellow krogan kicking and screaming into a better future.
- Another heroic example in Dragon Age: Inquisition with Leliana if she becomes the Divine. Compared to the other Divine potentials who both have good improvements but afraid to challenge the status quo, Leliana has the most radical change, but those changes are to correct the biased, hypocritical, and corrupt practices of the Chantry after a decade of understanding ever since her HeelFace Turn.
- In Heavy Rain, when the Lieutenant Carter Blake breaks the door of the apartment owned by a suspect and the FBI agent Norman Jayden tells him that's a crime.
Norman Jayden: I'm not sure that's entirely legal.
Carter Blake: Call the cops.
- In Tyranny, the Fatebinder can explain to Lantry after sampling his Cerulean ink that being an agent of Tunon means that, unless the Archon himself contradicts them, their word is law. The Fatebinder gets several moments when they can enforce or not Kyros' laws in a way that benefits them.
Fatebinder: Rhogalus says the legal term for that is Proxy Decisis. Calio says the legal term is "fuck you, I'm the law".
- Kingdom Hearts I: When the Red Queen puts Alice on trial for trying to steal her heart, Sora gathers evidence that proves the real culprits are the Heartless and Alice is innocent. When he presents it, the Queen angrilly orders her guards to attack anyway, saying that one of her laws is that anyone who defies the queen is automatically guilty. This is after she already gave Sora permission to find the culprit.
- In Hypnospace Outlaw, piracy is considered against the rules of Hypnospace. This doesn't stop one of the founders of Merchantsoft, Dylan Merchant, from setting up a site for illegally distributing music on The Alternet he helped create. If you put him to task and crack down on his website, he will revoke your Enforcer privileges and temporarily ban you from Hypnospace. By the time you return, his piracy site is back up and running, and no longer flagable as violating Hypnospace rules.
- In The Order of the Stick, Miko Miyazaki comes to believe that this would happen if they were to bring Lord Shojo to court. So she executes him instead. The gods disagree with her assessment, and strip her of her powers.
- This is the attitude of Christian Weston Chandler. It is a very good thing that he does not have this power in Real Life.
- Tales from the Pit deals with the daily exploits of the creators of Magic: The Gathering, so it's not surprising that we'd see them abusing their power a little.
- In Flaky Pastry, Nitrine finally decides to shut up an Evil Chancellor with one line: Screw The Rules, I'm Royalty!
- Baron Klaus Wulfenbach in Girl Genius is a firm believer in this as well. It's not so much him abusing his power, so much as it is him disregarding all the ridiculous contrivances that the Fifty Families make up.
- In El Goonish Shive, magic usually functions under the Magic A Is Magic A principle. However, magic is also a Sentient Cosmic Force with a will and objectives of its own (and a penchant for drama). If it wants to, it can completely change the rules of how it works, and is stated to have done this several times in the past.
Emissary of Magic: Magic is a force capable of defying the physical laws of the universe. It doesn't have to work the way it does now.
- Schlock Mercenary: General Bala-Amin points out that Commodore Tagon is in violation of his homeworld's laws on retired military personnel; taking a rank in a mercenary company in service to foreign power is considered treason. Commodore Tagon counters that he's the one who wrote the law, so he can rewrite it.
General Bala-Amin: That's not actually how law works.
Commodore Tagon: I know members of the legislature who would disagree with you under oath.
General Bala-Amin: Okay, that's not how law works for regular people.
- I Hate Everything decided not to include Bionicle: Mask of Light in his ranking for the Search for the Worst due to finding it not as bad as he expected it to be, and because it wasn't technically part of the IMDB bottom 100. Also applies to several other films that weren't in the bottom 100, such as The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure and The Last Airbender.
- TLF Travel Alerts occasionally decide just to close lines down because they are in charge and can do what they want. Sucks if you need the Victoria or Bakerloo line. Delays.
- A Dose of Buckley keeps a list of rules for his "Ten Worst Songs of 20XX" series, outlining which songs are disqualified for the list (e.g. any viral novelty song, any song not meant for mainstream radio, any song he reviews in a "Musical Autopsy", etc.). His first rule: "I can break any of my own rules whenever I feel it is necessary".
- In Reds, a more unified socialist Worker's Party wins the 1932 election by a landslide. Essentially the knee-jerk reaction of the capitalist factions and President Herbert Hoover is this trope mixed with Screw the Rules, I Have Money! - declare the whole election void, suspend the Constitution and call for the arrest of all Worker's Party members and associates. They learn very quickly that no, they don't make the rules anymore.
- In All Hail King Julien, Julien frequently gets himself into trouble because he thinks he's immune to consequences.
Maurice: Your majesty, this (an election) is not a good idea.Julien: Don't worry Maurice, I'm king! I can't lose! It's what they call "Political correctness"Maurice: King Julien, that's not how an election works!
- In Danny Phantom, this is Walker's attitude with his "rules". In his Establishing Character Moment, he arrests Danny, THEN makes what Danny was doing at the time illegal.
- This also seems to be the attitude of the GIW, only in their case they not only handcuff Sam and Tucker to a wall, and are preparing an anti-ghost missile to wipe out the Ghost Zone at the time, even though the kids TRY to tell them that destroying the GZ will destroy the Earth, which the GIW should REALLY have checked out first, but in that same episode, they don't even KNOW the laws that grant them their authority, and will casually violate them, even if it means firing MISSILES towards a group of teens of a wild guess one of them is a ghost, completely destroying private property on nothing more than a tip, and being more concerned about clean uniforms than public safety.
- Family Guy:
Peter: AH, AH, AH, can't touch me!Can't touch me!Juh-juh-juh-juh-just like the bad guys from 'Lethal Weapon 2''I've got diplomatic immunitySo Hammer you can't sue!I can write graffiti even jaywalk in the streetI can riot, loot, not give a hootAnd touch your sister's teatCan't touch me!Can't touch me!Mayor West: What in god's name is he doing?Peter: Can't touch me!Cleveland: I believe that's the worm.Peter: Stop! Peter time!I'm a big shotThere's no doubtLight a fire then pee it outDon't like it? Kiss my rumpJust for a minute let's all do the bumpYeah do the Peter Griffin bumpI'm presidential PeterInterns think I'm hotDon't care if your handicapI'll still park in your spotI've been around the worldFrom Hartford to BombayIt's Peter go Peter I'm Peter yo Peter let's see Regis rap this wayCant touch me!*Beat*Peter: Except for you, you can touch me.
- Peter Griffin's song in "E. Peterbus Unum" (the episode where he builds a micronation out of his estate) could be "Screw The Rules I Make Them", the anthem:
- In the episode "Cool Hand Peter," Peter, Cleveland, Joe, and Quagmire run afoul of the Corrupt Hick Sheriff Nichols in Georgia who acts this way. First he accuses them of having a taillight and turn signal out, and then smashes both of them himself. When Joe shows him his police badge, Nichols promptly disposes of it before deliberately planting a bag of marijuana in the trunk and sending them to prison for two weeks, which he somehow manages to extend to thirty days. When the boys escape, the sheriff and his deputies chase them all the way to Quahog, but Joe anticipates this and places a call into the Quahog cops, who surround Nichols and his crew. Joe quickly gets in a little revenge by smashing up Nichols' car and then shoots him in the leg, before telling him that just because he's a cop doesn't mean that he can do whatever he wants and forcing him out of Quahog.
- Stavros Garkos and his brother Spiro Garkos in Hurricanes.
- Cad Bane in Star Wars: The Clone Wars: "I'm in control. I make the rules now." Of course, he is speaking as a hostage taker, not as an authority figure.
- More conventionally, Moralo Eval sets up an elaborate challenge for a bunch of bounty hunters recruited by Dooku. Obi-Wan, disguised as bounty hunter Rako Hardeen, keeps screwing up his death traps by teaching the participants to get around them with a higher survival rate than he wants. Fed up, he sets up a sniper challenge (Hardeen's specialty). Obi-Wan's force-guided reflexes are ably to easily pass it... were it not for the fact that Eval only gave his rifle enough charge to shoot four of the five required targets (a fact he doesn't mention until Hardeen fails). Cad Bane saves Hardeen, since he considers such flagrant cheating unsporting.
- Total Drama: Chris McLean is this trope. Not only does he often change the rules to "make things more interesting" (read: dangerous and/or life-threatening), he does so with a great amount of sadistic glee.
- Real World Example: During the U.S. finale of Revenge of the Island, the voting polls were open to decide the winner of the season (Zoey, Lightning, or Cameron). When the finale aired in the U.S., the network ignored the votes, and decided to go with Lightning as the winner, even though Cameron was in the lead in the polls and won in literally every other country that had aired the show up to that point (as of May 2016, Lightning has also won in the Philippines).
- They would do the exact same thing a second time with the US finale of Pahkitew Island. Sky had the most votes in the blog asking fans who they wanted to win yet Shawn's ending was the one that aired.
- Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog: In one episode, Robotnik decides to demote Coconuts after he himself is tricked by Sonic even though Coconuts wasn't even there at the time, because, as he puts it, "I'm the boss! I can blame whoever I want!"
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: The episode "Avatar Day" features an anti-Avatar celebration in Chin Village because Avatar Kyoshi killed Chin the Great, which leads to Aang, Kyoshi's reincarnation, taking the heat for it and being tried in a Kangaroo Court that led to him being sentenced to being boiled in oil. However, when a Fire Nation squad invades the village and goes on a rampage, the terrified mayor quickly changes Aang's sentence to community service to allow him to fight the Fire Nation off.
- In The Legend of Korra, flashbacks showed that back when Toph was Chief of Police in Republic City, when her daughter Suyin was arrested for being a getaway driver for one of the gangs, she quickly destroyed the police report and covered it up. This led to a rift developing between Suyin and her sister Lin (who was the one who arrested her in the first place).
- In Gargoyles, at one point Oberon decrees that his magic will no longer affect Goliath's clan. However when they later come into conflict again, Oberon uses his magic against the gargoyles indirectly, such as by summoning freezing rain or gale-force winds. When Goliath calls him out on this, Oberon replies "My decrees are mine to interpret!"
- Mayor Quimby in The Simpsons invokes this trope on a regular basis. He makes little or no attempt to hide his corrupt dealings, and seems convinced that he can get away with anything since "he cannot be removed from office except by a recall election". Any sane town would have kicked him out (and jailed him) long ago, but the people of Springfield somehow re-elect him every term.
- In the Biker Mice from Mars two-part episode "The Reeking Reign of the Head Cheese", when Charley informs Lawrence Limburger, who has made himself mayor of Chicago by kidnapping the mayor and taking advantage of his status as a Villain with Good Publicity, that he can't demolish a building while people are still inside it, Limburger rationalizes that as mayor he can do whatever he wants.
- In one episode of Muppet Babies, Baby Piggy does this when they have a race around the nursery. Afterwards, Nanny explains why you can't do this when playing with others, and why fair play is important.
- Kaeloo does this a lot. If anyone questions her behavior during a game, they'll get a response along the lines of:
Kaeloo: This is my game, and I'll do whatever I want!
- It happens in the Season 8 premiere of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic when Twilight Sparkle needs to get EEA approval to open her school and fails in part due to the guy doing the approving being a racist jerk and in part due to the school having some safety and quality concerns. She ultimately decides to just open the school anyways, in spite of the rule that even a princess can't go against the EEA's decision, knowing full-well nobody is willing or able to actually enforce the rule and prevent her from making up a new on on the spot that allows the school to open:
Twilight Sparkle: It's not an EEA school. It's a friendship school with its own rules. I should know. I wrote the book!
- Article 1 Section 5 of the US Constitution gives each chamber of Congress to set up their own rules as they see fit. This can lead to strange politics when Congress subverts its own rules by making new ones.
- For example, the rule governing filibusters in the US Senate requires a two thirds majority (67 out of 100 senators) to invoke cloture, not even a sixty vote majority. Recently, the Senate changed those rules on filibusters in some cases to be just a bare majority (51).
- To clarify, the Democrats changed this rule after getting fed up with Republican tactics to block Obama nominees that they did not like, effectively allowing the President to name anyone he wants to any position he can (a special exception was made that preserved the Supreme Court) so long as that person does not upset his party's sensibilitiesnote . Gone Horribly Right in 2016, when the Democrats failed to secure both the Senate and the White House and had no recourse on Donald Trump's picks. To top it off, Republicans now like the rule so much, they have extended it to Supreme Court nominations in 2017, much to the Democrats' horror.
- As it goes, these changes on a whole do not play well with the erosion of checks on the Senate as handing more power to each party.
- Another example is that a quorum (ie a majority of the chamber's members) must be present to vote before any law can be passed. However, the rules of the House and Senate both presume that a quorum is always present unless a member demands a quorum call to actually count the members, or a roll call vote is held in which each member's vote of yes or no is recorded. Thus, if nobody shows up to a session to oppose a bill and demand a quorum, it can be "unanimously" passed by voice vote despite far less than a quorum having voted. This infamously happened with the so-called "Palm Sunday Compromise", which was passed by the Senate with only 3 Senators present rather the required minimum of 51. Whether the House and Senate actually have the proper legal authority to handle quorums in this way, seeing as the quorum requirement is spelled out in the US Constitution rather than being a rule that Congress itself created, is up for debate.
- For example, the rule governing filibusters in the US Senate requires a two thirds majority (67 out of 100 senators) to invoke cloture, not even a sixty vote majority. Recently, the Senate changed those rules on filibusters in some cases to be just a bare majority (51).
- Martin Luther King Jr. was quoted with saying, "Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal." Believe it or not, he had a point:
- The 'constitutional' basis for Nazi laws was the 1933 Enabling Act, which gave Hitler, as Chancellor, the power to make laws and change the constitution without consulting the Reichstag. So there was a rule that allowed Hitler to make the rules as and when he preferred.
- Then the day after the Night of the Long Knives, a second rule — Ex post facto law — was passed. In the field of criminal legislation, it violated every hitherto accepted principle of German law, but from the Nazi point of view this made the killings perfectly "legal".
- Some of the actions Hitler took to get the Enabling Act passed weren't exactly legal, of course. Things like arresting all the Communist party deputies and then not counting anyone who wasn't "present without excuse" to determine if enough representatives were present to pass the two-thirds threshold for constitutional amendments. Or like filling the building with SA troops to intimidate the deputies into voting for the act.
- The Trial of Louis XVI of France in 1792 produced some interesting arguments. Pretty much everyone agreed that Louis was guilty, but why he was seemed to be more important than whether he was:
- Jean-Paul Marat, despite generally being considered an enthusiastic advocate of execution in the rest of the revolution, took a surprisingly limited stance - Louis was only guilty if he had violated the constitution of 1791 (which of course Marat believed he had).
- Louis-Antoine Saint-Just and Thomas Paine, among others, argued that while the trial was necessary, it was making the wrong charges; simply having been King was in itself a crime and enough to make Louis guilty, despite the fact that Louis' kingship had been legal by the laws in place at the time.
- Maximilien Robespierre largely accepted the aforementioned argument by Paine and Saint-Just, but took it even further; he argued that the trial was not even necessary because the very act of dethroning Louis and declaring France a Republic already made him guilty: putting him on trial meant accepting there was some possibility, however small, that Louis might be innocent, which meant putting the legitimacy of the Republic in doubt, and they could only hold a trial if the Republic was legitimate.
- Richard Nixon effectively said this in the interviews with David Frost (see the page quote) when discussing the Huston Plan, in which he had given his approval to a plan calling for domestic burglary and illegal surveillance of suspected radicals. Note that he didn't get away with it when he tried, and people were rather shocked when he said it (or more accurately, that he said it so bluntly; people weren't terribly surprised to learn that "Tricky Dick" was a paranoid autocrat, but that he would say so out loud...).
David Frost: So what, in a sense, you're saying is that there are times - the Huston Plan, or at least that part of it, was one of them - when the President can decide it's in the best interest of the nation, or something, and do something illegal?
Richard Nixon: Well, when the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.
- During one sack of the city of Rome, a Gaul general named Brennus offered to ransom the city in return for a payment of gold by weight. When some of the Roman tribunes noticed that the Gaul-provided weights for determining the ransom were fixed and dared to tell him this, he responded by unsheathing his sword, throwing it upon the scale as well, and telling them (presumably through a translator) "Vae victis" or "Woe to the vanquished."
- Vae victis was a common Roman battle-cry; whether the battle cry is taken from this incident or Brennus was making an Ironic Echo of the legions that had repeatedly attacked his people, it makes for a powerful story.
- The example loses some impact when it reveals that, according to Roman historians, a Roman general named Camillus entered the city with an army, put his own sword on the scale, and said "Non auro, sed ferro, recuperanda est patria" or ""Not with gold, but with iron, will the fatherland be regained." Cue a Gallic ass-kicking.
- Similar to the Coming to America example above, the Byzantine senator Justinian fell in love with Theodora, an actress. It was totally illegal for senators to marry actresses, who were seen as very much the dregs of humanity. Justinian, however, happened to be not only the nephew of the Emperor but his most trusted adviser, so the law was promptly changed and he married Theodora. (Later he succeeded his uncle as Emperor and, when faced with a rebellion, Theodora was the only person who advised him against fleeing. He defeated the rebellion and reigned for decades more, and is known to this day as "Justinian the Great.")
- A lawsuit filed on July 3, 2013 alleges that the Henderson, NV police, after being denied usage of Anthony Mitchell's home for surveillance purposes, opted to instead take it by force. Simply put, it's the first time the Third Amendment has been invoked on the grounds of "Quartering soldiers" since the late '70s. Per the official report: "It was determined to move to 367 Evening Side and attempt to contact Mitchell. If Mitchell answered the door he would be asked to leave. If he refused to leave he would be arrested for Obstructing a Police Officer. If Mitchell refused to answer the door, force entry would be made and Mitchell would be arrested."
- This particular rationale was later quashed by a judge, as police officers aren't members of the military - the lawsuit was allowed to proceed on the premise that it violated the 4th (unreasonable search and seizure) and 1st (Free Speech) Amendments, however.
- There was a rule book laying out the expected behavior for Alcatraz that contained 53 rules. The last rule? "If you do something we don't have a rule for, we will make a rule up on the spot and punish you for it."
- Defied by Ulysses S. Grant. While President, Grant was stopped for speeding. (Yes, in a horse-drawn carriage. The man loved his horses.) The cop who flagged Grant over immediately apologized after he realized whom he was talking to and offered to let the whole thing go. The President waved this off, replying "Officer, do your duty."
- Played straight by Franklin Pierce, who ran over an old woman with his carriage, possibly while drunk. The one-term president faced down the arresting officer with the line "I am Mr. Pierce," and was eventually released.
- Also inverted by Ho Chi Minh, who found himself stopped by an officer guarding a Communist base. The officer insisted that Ho provide some form of identification (he had forgotten his ID) to be let in. This is the equivalent of asking the U.S. president for ID to enter the White House. After some back and forth, the officer's superior arrived and started to tell him off for not recognizing Ho, but was waved aside as the junior officer was simply doing his duty.
- Civil asset forfeiture allows police officers to seize cash and property from people if they suspect that they were obtained by crime without people being formally charged. There's a perverse incentive for cops to seize large amounts of cash and cars from people on flimsy pretexts. Taken to the next level, it's also a wider symptom of police corruption. Needless to say, there is a significant movement to restrict or outlaw this as a violation of the 4th Amendment (unreasonable search and seizure) and/or 8th Amendment (excessive fines, under which rationale the Supreme Court ruled against it in 2019).
- In an echo of Nixon, Donald Trump has said that the President is incapable of having a conflict of interest.
- In a legal sense, he's not wrong. United States Conflict of Interest Laws exempt the President and the Vice-President. Just because he cannot get in trouble for having one does not mean he does not have one. The Exemption was to make the office as open as possible, so people who had lucrative business wouldn't be discouraged from legal issues that would prevent them from holding their position.
- In December 2017, Trump's personal lawyer, John Dowd, argued that "The president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under (the Constitution's Article II) and has every right to express his view of any case," in response to allegations that Trump had done so with his dismissal of FBI Director James Comey.
- Trump got a lot of press coverage for flouting the norms of the office, including appointing his daughter and son in law as advisers, apparently even over objections over Jared Kushner's problems with his security clearance.
- Unfortunately, there are some legal guardians (and other older relatives) and school staffnote who may either do this, or be perceived as doing this, which can also (but not necessarily always) cross over into being the previously mentioned abuse of authority, causing some sons, daughters, and studentsnote to come to the conclusion that adults get to make (and change) the rules as they see fitnote , and there's nothing they can do about it (until they turn whatever their town / city / state / province / country says is the age of majority). At worst, they may even stop trusting all adults (yes, including even their own parents and older relatives, etc.) completely.
- Robert Moses, New York City's legendary infrastructure czar during the middle decades of the 20th century, used to like sort of invoking this trope in his later years when he'd let some newly hired young lawyer at one of the agencies he ran go on for a while expounding on a particular area of relevant law to whatever it was they were doing or trying to do, then stopping the fellow with "I know the law, young man ... I wrote it", which he actually had.note
- Modern monetary theory argues that, unlike private individuals or organizations (or national subdivisions, e.g. provinces and municipalities), and contrary to hand-wringing over budget deficits, sovereign nation-states that are the sole supplier of their own currencynote can issue as much currency as they like and cannot go bankrupt. This is an extrapolation of the fact that modern currency, technically termed "fiat money", only has value in the first place because the government says it does. Under MMT, rather than providing the government with revenue needed to operate, taxes simply give the government a way to shape the economy to its preferences by incentivizing non-governmental entities to spend or not spend their money in particular ways.
- The Quakers have no formal clergy, believing that no one has the authority or right to intercede between you and God, including at your wedding, where they believe it's best to make your vows directly to God in front of witnesses but with no human third-party effectively giving you permission or approval. This didn't jibe with the religious establishment originally surrounding them in England or the New World, so, unsurprisingly, they once faced a lot of persecution for such practices, with courts refusing to recognize their marriages, declaring their children illegitimate, etc. Well, William Penn was a Quaker, so when he founded the British colony now known as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, he was able to make it legal for two people to marry with witnesses only, no officiant required. (Yes, the rule he made still exists today.)